A magistrate on Thursday turned down a request by five men facing charges over a phantom job given to Melvin Theuma for the evidence he gave before an inquiring magistrate to be struck off.
Instead the magistrate ordered Theuma - the self-confessed middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder plot - to testify in person later on Thursday.
Theuma was given a phantom job in a government-owned company months before the murder. He never actually went to work but pocketed the salary.
The accused are Keith Schembri, former chief of staff, businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is awaiting trial for complicity in the murder, Sandro Craus, the former head of customer care at the Office of the Prime Minister; Anthony Mario Ellul, the ex-family ministry private secretary and Anthony Muscat, the former CEO of a government company.
They also deny the charges.
Magistrate Monica Vella decreed that since the case was to be decided by the Magistrates’ Court and since the case was still in defence evidence stage, the accused’s lawyers had every opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, who included Theuma.
Edward Gatt, the lawyer for former chief of staff Keith Schembri asked the court to order the prosecution to summon Theuma this same day, recalling that he had refused to testify earlier, for fear of self-incrimination.
To ensure that justice was done to all, it was necessary for Theuma’s position to be determined once and for all.
Prosecuting Inspector Nicholas Vella was questioned by lawyer Stefano Filletti about the cover provided to Theuma by the pardon given to him to spill the beans about the Caruana Gallizia murder plot.
The prosecutor said that no charges had been filed against Theuma for the unjustified payments (from the job) and subsequent laundering of the funds, because he was covered by the pardon.
The defence lawyers argued that the pardon did not cover Theuma in respect to the phantom job. Charges were issued against the persons who allegedly gave him the phantom job and paid him but not against him, despite him having accepted the unjustified payments, they said.
Asked whether he had ever seen the original unredacted version of the pardon, Vella replied that he had seen a copy. He had seen extracts of it or occasionally parts were read out to him, he explained.
Advice from the AG’s office had been sought, said Vella.
The court upheld the defence’s request to bring Theuma back to the witness stand this afternoon.
Lawyer Stefano Filletti assisted the accused Anthony Muscat. Vince Micallef and Jacob Portelli assisted Ellul. Michael and Lucio Sciriha assisted Craus. Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo assisted Schembri. Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca assisted Fenech.